A day care worker who left a toddler in a van where the child eventually died of heat exhaustion has agreed to a plea deal of 10 years of probation.
Shawana Stacy wiped tears from her eyes as the judge walked her through the plea agreement. She won't be officially sentenced until March 23.
"We reached this decision after a lot of research and consultation," said assistant state attorney Michael Sinacore.
Stacy picked up Tyrese Green, who was 17 months old, in a day care center van at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 8, 2001, and mistakenly left him inside when other children got out.
Stacy discovered the toddler when she picked up more children after school at 2:30 p.m. and one of them told her that a baby was sleeping in a car seat in the back.
Tyrese wasn't sleeping. Stacy tried CPR, but the child had died of heat exhaustion, police said. Temperatures reached 77 degrees in Tampa that day. The van's windows were rolled up, and Tyrese was wearing a jacket.
Stacy was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but prosecutors charged her with a lesser crime of aggravated child neglect. Sinacore said that case law did not deal with what to do if a child died when someone accidentally leaves him in a vehicle.
This was not a case of someone knowingly leaving a child in a car to run an errand, he said, which is more common.
The investigation revealed that the day care, Lotta Lovin Child Care Center, had failed to follow proper procedure in the past when it came to double checking that all the children were accounted for, Sinacore said.
Florida law requires day care workers to maintain a log of children being transported in a vehicle. Upon arrival at a destination, the driver must mark each child off on the log when the child gets out and then inspect the vehicle. Another day care employee must verify the log and inspect the vehicle.
Lotta Lovin, 8325 Packwood Ave. in Tampa, was licensed starting July 1, 1998, and was permitted to house as many as 75 children. The center usually had two dozen to three dozen.
County records indicate that Lotta Lovin had repeatedly been cited for failing to provide adequate supervision, although generally conditions improved on followup visits.
"That was enough to support the charge," Sinacore said. "But the accidental nature of the case played into the decision to negotiate a plea that did not include jail time."
Tyrese's mother, Sedrika Green, was not in court and could not be reached for comment. Sinacore said she had wanted a sentence that included jail time. Green has a pending lawsuit against Stacy and the school.
"We consulted with her," Sinacore said. "We ended up doing what we thought was fair."
Other terms of the agreement include 250 hours of community service. Stacy also will not be allowed to operate a day care facility.
_ Graham Brink can be reached at 226-3365 or brinksptimes.com.